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The Airmen's Stories - F/O W Barnes


Wilkinson Barnes was born in Sunderland on 13th July 1913 and educated at Tunstall Boys School, Sunderland and Durham School. He trained as a Chartered Surveyor and Auctioneer and then joined the family firm, becoming a partner in 1937.

Barnes joined 607 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force at Usworth in early 1938.

He married Maureen Todd in Sunderland in July 1939.

He was called up on 24th August 1939 and in September was posted to 7 FTS Peterborough to complete his flying training.


Above: 504 Squadron - Barnes (standing) with F/O KV Wendel (NZ) seated


In March 1940 Barnes joined 504 Squadron at Debden. On 12th May he flew to France with the squadron, which was withdrawn on the 22nd after losing most of its aircraft. Barnes returned to England by boat from Boulogne, after dumping his logbook and kit in the harbour there.

504 Squadron reformed at Wick, later moving to Castletown. On 4th September 1940 it flew south, via Catterick, and arrived at Hendon on the 5th. The squadron was heavily involved in the Battle of Britain until moving to Filton on 26th October.

In late July 1941 'A' Flight was re-numbered 81 Squadron for service in Russia. 'B' Flight went to Ballyherbert with Barnes as a Flight Commander.

He was posted away in December 1941 to 55 OTU Crosby-on-Eden as an instructor. In January 1942 Barnes received a Mention in Dispatches.

He was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader in April 1942 and appointed CO at RAF Brunton. In October Barnes went to 1529 BAT Flight at Wittering for a Beam Approach course. On the 28th he took off in Master AZ803 with P/O Hay as instructor. There was a fog and the beam was diverted to help a bomber in distress. The Master crashed, Hay was not strapped in and was killed. Barnes was severely injured and was in the RAF Hospital Ely until June 1943.

He went to the Rehabilitation Unit at Loughborough in August, moving later to Newcastle.

Barnes was invalided out in March 1944 as a Flight Lieutenant. He rejoined the family firm and retired in 1978.

A well-known figure in Sunderland, Barnes died there on 19th May 1980.


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